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Chinese swarm to Phuket

July 31, 2013

CHINESE visitors to Phuket reached record levels in 1H2013 when almost half a million mainlanders came to the island, a growing trend that is changing the face of tourism “from west to east”.

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One-in-four international arrivals to Thailand’s largest island during the first six months were Chinese, a dynamic which is reshaping the local tourism market, according to C9 Hotelworks’ Phuket Hotel Market Mid-Year Update 2013 report, which will be published tomorrow.

While surging Chinese arrivals were good for business, over-reliance on a single market brought its own risks, said the consultancy’s managing director, Bill Barnett.

“There have been a lot of worries (about the surge in Chinese arrivals) that happens any time you over-leverage one market,” he said. “There are concerns about what happens if China cools, could the drop in business be made up from another market?

“There are also cultural issues. We’ve already seen a cultural backlash against the Russian market in Phuket from locals and we’re starting to see that with the Chinese too. Mono-markets are never good. There has to be more complexity, but the face of tourism is definitely changing from west to east.”

The report, which excludes arrivals from Hong Kong, found that 457,401 Chinese arrived at Phuket International Airport between January to June, up from a mere 37,948 in 2007. This accounted for almost one-fifth of the record 2.3 million Chinese who came to the country from January to June.

Increased air access and the fact that Phuket lies within the crucial six-hour window from China were key drivers of the trend, which saw the northern neighbours account for more than half of all Asian arrivals to the island, said Barnett.

Twenty-two Chinese cities now have direct flights to Phuket, up from seven in 2007. China accounted for 18 per cent of all international scheduled charter flights to Phuket in 1H2013.

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